The ASUS Zenfone series of devices has been some of the most interesting ones in the market in their times. The ASUS flagship line always comes up with something new up their sleeves and experiment with new ways of doing things. The Zenfone 3 zoom for example was one of the first few smartphones to have an optical zoom option with the dual camera set up. The Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro that was launched last year also was one of the few phones that used the dual lens technology to capture great looking selfies. It is the only one at the time to come equipped with a 120-degree wide-angle lens for that wide landscape shot or a large group wefie.
The downfall of all this new technologies and experimentation are the pricing. The prices of the Zenfone 3 series especially was a little too steep for its fans liking. They were very good devices mind you. The Zenfone 2 series though bears the hallmarks of ASUS, a high quality product that is sold at a fraction of the price.
This year at Mobile World Congress 2018 (MWC 2018) ASUS wants to go back to its roots. They want to introduce great products at a fraction of the asking price of its competition; hence the #backto5 hashtag. But more than that they want to jump into the foray of Artificial Intelligence with their partner, Qualcomm. They want to make the Zenfone even more personal than before. They want the Zenfone to learn the way you behave and interact, not just with the smartphone but with the environment as well.
Welcome to the Zenfone 5 experience.
The replacement to last year’s Zenfone series starts with the Zenfone 5 obviously. The swirling design that was so popular on the Zenfone 3 series made a come back on this new device. The result; a beautiful looking device that oozes elegance and premium feel. The sexy back is covered with a 2.5D glass that houses a stunning 6.2-inch Full HD+ IPS display with a little notch on top. The screen ratio is at an odd 19:9 that mimics that of a competing premium brand, but that is no bad thing. The display is even bigger and fills up more of the front than its competing product (or at least the product it is based on).
Inside it packs the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 Octa-core prodessor that is fully optimised for Artificial Intelligence (AI). That powerful processor is paired with a 6GB RAM and an Adreno 509 for optimum gaming performance. Of course it is designed to keep up and cope with the dual camera set up of this device.
The previous Zenfone was made to be that device that you always go to for photography. The Zenfone 4 had the dual lens camera that we all saw and love on the Zenfone 3 Zoom. It also had a 120-degree wide-angle lens that was extremely useful when you need to capture a wider field of view (landscape photography).
The Zenfone 5’s camera becomes one of the focus points here too obviously. But in tandem of their AI focus, the camera app is now smarter and better than before with ASUS’ implementation in AI. The camera sensor is dual Sony IMX363 12-Megapixel f/1.8 sensors for flagship devices. It comes standard with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and colour sensitivity is now improved by five folds.
The camera app itself features 16 different preset scenes and shooting modes for different environments and subjects. The AI part of this camera comes into play here. The software detects your subject and automatically adjusts the scenes according to you subject focus and environment. Of course the 120-degree wide angle shot is back in play here on the secondary lens. Of course the two lenses will create the Bokeh effect for a more compelling portrait. The camera’s ability to capture unreal details is also demonstrated at the show.
For those who prefer to have full control over their own photos and camera there is the Pro mode for a completely manual operation. The Pro mode also allows you to capture photos in RAW format too for that extra detail on your photos. There are over 60 different presets for you to adjust and tinker with in Pro Mode to make it even more flexible.
After taking all those photos, the device even learns the sort of photos you prefer to take and keeps it in mind for your next photos so that you do not have to keep fiddling with the settings every time you take a photo.
The 6.2-inch display is also more clever than ever. The little ‘fringe’ on top of the display houses not only the various sensors and speakerphone. It also features a secondary built-in speaker that is a part of the stereo configuration that is 25% louder than its previous generations. The notification bar itself is clever too. It shows all the important notices. Of course it will learn from you too. The AI also taps into the colour temperature settings to give you the best colour temperature at different conditions.
Talking about speakers, the Zenfone 5 still comes around with a 3.5mm jack for your headphones and earphones to be plugged in. It even supports Hi-Res Audio now to ensure you get the best audio experience with the included ZenEar S earphones. The AudioWizard also includes two dedicated noise cancelling mics for that extra clear phone conversations. For that total immersion though you are relying on the NXP 9874 amp that powers the Hi-Res Audio processors and DTS Headphone X feature.
If you are connecting your device through Bluetooth, you get an even more stable connection with Bluetooth 5.0. With the better reception you also get Qualcomm’s aptX technology for the ultimate wireless listening experience. On top of that Bluetooth audio on the Zenfone 5 now includes virtual 7.1 surround sound.
There is more AI on the device also. There is the AI Boost that will technically overclock your device by 12.72% when you need that extra grunt. There is AI Charging that maximises your battery shelf life by predicting, learning, and optimising your charge cycle. Then, there is the AI Ringtone that vibrates and rings louder in a noisy environment or if it detects that is in a bag.
When there is AI, there is AR. For the Zenfone 5 ASUS has decided to include something called a Zenimoji. In terms of technicality it does look very similar to Apple’s implementation on their AR emoji as well. In terms of package, the Zenimoji can be shared among users anywhere via any platform.
That brings us to the security. You still of course get the fingerprint sensor that is just as fast as before at the back of the Zenfone 5. It also now includes facial recognition to unlock your device to keep the AI theme uniform.
All that goodness is kept in check with the Android 8.0 Oreo loaded with the ZenUI. To keep all that powerful features and AI powered through the day is a 3,300mAh Li-Ion battery that is non removable.
The Zenfone 5z is ASUS’ answer to the beasts of the smartphone world. It takes all the best bits of the ASUS Zenfone 5 and turned them up to 11.
It packs an ever more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. The new processor has the power to match some entry-level PCs and even more. It packs a new X20 LTE modem that allows its devices to run on Gigabit speed networks.
It comes with three options for storage; 4GB RAM with 64GB of ROM, 6GB RAM with 128GB of ROM, and 8GB RAM with 256GB of ROM. Anyone of that RAM size paired with the Adreno 630 makes it one of the most compelling devices in the current market.
Availability and Pricing
There are currently no official word on the local pricing of both the products. For the Zenfone 5 though prices starts at Eur479 (MYR2,296) for the 4GB RAM 64GB storage version. The global availability for the Zenfone 5 is said to be somewhere in April while the Zenfone 5z will only be globally available June, 2018 onward.
Also published on Medium.